This story is part of the Initiative between Association Konekt and AmCham within the USAID’s Partnership for Giving Project, and is recognized as one of the Best Practices for Corporate Philanthropy.
Students at NOVA learn to look beyond academics. The Service as Action and the Creativity, Action, Service programs focus on autonomous learning by engaging in projects that contribute to community development, policy improvement and successful fund and awareness-raising initiatives. They learn to understand pressing social issues, identify the community’s needs and engage with it to make positive changes. Through action, inquiry and reflection, students develop skills for future academic success and life beyond school, hence our regular cooperation with the NGOs. Our latest activities are 17 computer sets via Doniraj Kompjuter for a Kicevo primary school; funds and school supplies for the Dragomance village primary school and dormitory with Let’s Spread Love; art materials for Ukrainian children with UNHCR, Christmas gifts for the SOS Children’s Village; and funds and clothes for the Turkey and Siria earthquake victims.
This Practice as a Game-changer
The International Baccalaureate curriculum sets specific student development standards entailing awareness of one’s socioeconomic conditions and necessary social or environmental improvements. With NOVA’s commitment to a full IB continuum school, we apply sustainable development principles in line with our mission: seek self and others, in hearts and minds unafraid of possibilities. We teach about sustainable development by educating students who contribute to the community by cleaning green areas, collecting waste and recycling, providing for those in need. The roof solar plant and battery system satisfy 50% of our energy needs. We track outdoor and indoor air quality with specific monitoring mechanisms in line with our policies. Each indoor space has air purifiers to ensure clean air even during high outdoor pollution. We use reverse osmosis water fountains reducing water bottle purchases. We maintain ecological awareness with different types of waste bins on campus and electronic waste recycling. We don’t use plastic cutlery, plates, cups. Our archives and files are digital to avoid bulk printing. We live our educational philosophy and practice it.
The Transformative Journey
Students reflect and self-assess their progress as part of the IB student portfolio. The IB program aims to develop internationally minded people who recognize their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, helping to create a better and more peaceful world. This is in line with our strategy for being an important stakeholder not only within our community but also in the wider context. Our educational and philanthropic strategies coincide in the fact that we nurture our students’ creative strengths in a life of passionate pursuits while enabling them to find their own sense of purpose. These learning standards and principles aim to prepare students for a life where they themselves design, co-create, share and accomplish goals, launched into society equipped with skills to attain positive change for the greater good. These goals are embedded into the teaching methodology and students’ assignments, actively and regularly taught throughout the curriculum. The steps are incorporated into individual classes presented by the Service as Action and Creativity, Action and Service programs for different grade levels depending on the students’ age. As a subset or particular kind of action, service has always been a shared value of the IB community. IB learners strive to be caring members of the community and demonstrate a personal commitment to service and act to make a positive difference in the lives of others and the environment. Thus, they provide educational workshops for Roma children, they gather food and clothes for the homeless shelter beneficiaries, they clean Vodno, the City Park and other public spaces in Skopje and its vicinity, they produce informative environmental videos and regularly collect plastic waste.
Paving the Road towards Success
Our journey started in 2006 when the International Baccalaureate Organization authorized NOVA to offer its Diploma Programme for 11th and 12th-grade students (i.e., 3rd and 4th year of high school). In 2022 we were authorized to implement the Middle Years Programme, for students from 6th to 10th grade. Lastly, in the spring of 2023, we were authorized to implement the Primary Years Program for students aged 3 to 12. These formal steps testify to our long-term goal and enable us to literally carry out our educational beliefs without interruptions and thoroughly as each grade level builds upon the acquired material and the overall school experience from the previous one. The outcome is well-rounded carrying and respectful individuals, prepared to get involved in various philanthropic projects, working both individually and collectively for the greater good. In order to achieve this, our faculty tirelessly works on integrating this educational aspect into their individual curricula, paying close attention to positive moral values and exemplary behavior. Our beliefs are intrinsic in each taught lesson and each action taken. Without exception, students, parents and staff are united by the outlined communal journey. We nurture a growth mindset, releasing individual potential put to work towards communal contribution, shaping a better-shared future as our credo is that diversity makes the whole greater than its parts. Becoming an IB continuum school was a carefully planned process where every school stakeholder contributed accordingly. Detailed planning, ensuring outlined external criteria, and providing the right environment for our students to thrive academically and socially emotionally has been a common goal for every staff member.
With the refurbished school building and dormitory in Dragomance, students there will be able to learn in an environment that meets 21st-century standards, greatly boosting student’s personal growth and positively impacting the whole rural community. By providing Ukrainian children with art supplies and materials during the summer, we enabled them to have a summer distraction and a medium to express their emotions and states of mind, taking into consideration the conditions they left behind in their home country. By welcoming SOS Children Village protégés to our school’s Winter Market celebration, we brought joy into their lives and integration with an international community by playing educational games with them. With the latest computer sets donated to a Kicevo primary school, we are allowing the less fortunate to access necessary technology for their continued learning. By being actively involved with the homeless people shelter, we assist in their continued efforts to provide basic service for those in need. We contributed to the relief efforts following the Turkey and Syria earthquakes by collecting food, clothing and making a financial donation at the peak of the tragedy’s aftermath. These are just but a few of the projects recently undertaken, and they serve as a further motivation for our entire community to continue to build and grow its community outreach, enriching our students’ philanthropic mindset.
Moreover, we have saved more than 6 twenty-meter trees since January 2019 after installing our printing verification system that entails double-checks before printing materials. In addition, our installed solar system has avoided 200 tons of carbon dioxide and saved more than 300 trees since being installed. We expect this impact to further continue in the coming years.
Our learned lessons are that we can achieve an even greater level of self-sustainability and philanthropic contribution with commitment and hard work. Our experiences have pointed us to situations that can be avoided in the future with a more effective management structure. Having a strong team united around a singular goal is one key factor to successful project execution. Incorporating our values and beliefs within our educational framework is our initial step, but getting everyone synchronized in achieving that goal is our upcoming challenge. Investing in green energy and adopting a partial circular economy model is another crucial step that needs everybody’s consensus. We remain dedicated to communicating our vision for the future with all of our stakeholders and ensuring we have our community’s full support and backing.
We’re planning to further expand our IB’s Service as Action and, Creativity Action and Service programs, to ensure they impact all students. This means they are embedded as part of the school’s graduation expectations, and no student can complete the NOVA journey without having gone through these two critical steps. This ensures that the 100+ graduates that leave NOVA each school year are equipped with the know-how, not only necessary for a competitive college admissions process but also how to meaningfully contribute to their most immediate community and be a positive force for change. Lifelong skills that remain with our students long after their time at NOVA.
The school intends to continue serving as an exemplar of institutional responsibility by further reducing its carbon footprint, expanding its recycling practices, further raising awareness about the importance of reducing the impact of climate change, and publicly highlighting the fact that each of us is important enough in contributing to this seismic shift.